MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Other Sensory Principles

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Example Question #1 : Other Sensory Principles

Signal detection studies measure an individual’s ability to detect certain stimuli. They involve exposure to stimuli at varying magnitudes and ask subjects to detect any changes in their perceptual experience of the stimuli (i.e. the just-noticeable difference). Perceiving magnitude differences in stimuli depends on the type of sensory experience (e.g. touch or sound) and is based on proportional rather than absolute amounts. 

Imagine a hypothetical study that asked participants to perceive changes in amplitude of a sound stimulus. In this experiment, the researchers wanted to know how much the amplitude needed to change in order for an individual to detect a difference. They decided to test the just-noticeable difference at three different amplitudes: low, medium, and high. Participants in each category listened to the initial sound, and then the amplitude was increased or decreased slightly until participants detected a difference. 

Which of the following choices best describes amplitude?

Possible Answers:

Pitch

Loudness

Instrumentation

Quality/purity

Correct answer:

Loudness

Explanation:

In the passage, amplitude refers to loudness. On the other hand, frequency refers to pitch while timbre refers to quality/purity of sound. 

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